Child found locked in basement of home

Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012 @ 3:24 PM
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 @ 5:18 PM

MIDDLETOWN — A father and stepmother are accused of locking their 12-year-old daughter in a Middletown basement for nearly a month, tying her up and feeding her only cereal.

The couple have been charged with kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and child endangering, a third-degree felony, according to police.

Middletown police said an anonymous complaint led Butler County Children Services this month to investigate Shawn Blackston, 40, and Joanna Blackston, 36, who live at 1606 Philadelphia Ave. The complaint was that the couple were allegedly abusing one of their six children.

After Children Services staff members saw the “deplorable living conditions,” Middletown police were notified on July 3, said Lt. Scott Reeve.

Reeve said the children were removed from the home that day and placed in foster care and charges were filed against Shawn and Joanna Blackston on July 6 when they were found and arrested in a Sharonville motel.

Reeve said the girl, a sixth-grader in the Middletown City Schools District, had been allegedly locked in the basement since June 18, about a month after her last day of school. There were several locks on the outside of the door that led to the basement, Reeve said.

He said there was only a mattress in the unfinished basement, and the glass block windows were covered by sheets or wood, eliminating light from coming inside. One light bulb hung from the ceiling.

There was no bathroom in the basement, so the girl was let out of the basement when she needed to use the rest room, Reeve said.

Her only communication with her siblings was through floor boards and under the basement door, Reeve said.

Meanwhile, he said, the other children had air conditioners in their second-floor windows and video game systems in their bedrooms. When interviewed, the father and stepmother said locking the 12-year-old in the basement was a form of punishment and a way of protecting the other children.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Reeve said.

The girl was malnourished and dirty when found by officers, he said. She had scars on her back, arms and legs from what she said was previous abuse. She said her stepmother put duct tape over her eyes and mouth and bound her wrists behind her back. She hadn’t brushed her teeth in six months since her parents took the toothbrush away as punishment, she told investigators.

Attorney Randy Turner, guardian ad litem for a 15-year-old sister, said there were a number of red flags that something was wrong at the Blackston home. He said his ward was punished once by being made to watch the other children open Christmas presents when she had not been given any, and she was also punished by being placed in the basement.

The 15-year-old had faced a domestic violence charge in a separate incident and was found delinquent, the juvenile-court equivalent to being found guilty. When the juvenile court ruled the girl could not go home, Turner said she was unusually elated.

“She was thrilled to death,” Turner said.

In February, Turner asked the court to order Butler County Children Services to investigate the home. He said the agency didn’t find anything wrong with the home.
“They either didn’t look at the basement or thought it was OK,” Turner said.

He said the three stepchildren were treated differently.

“This isn’t the first time I had to file a complaint like this,” Turner said about children services.

Jeff Centers, executive director of BCCS, said the agency is cooperating with Middletown police, but couldn’t comment further about the agency’s investigation.

Centers said there were staff members placed on administrative leave this week, but would not say if it was related to this case. He said the case is pending an investigation into whether “proper policies and procedures were followed.” He refused to say who the staff members were and how many were on leave.

All of their six children who lived in the Philadelphia home — ages 16, 14, 12, 9, 3 and 2 — are in foster care.

Joanna Blackston has been released on a $25,000 cash or property bond. Her attorney, Ched Hagen Peck of Hamilton, said she denies all of the allegations. Shawn Blackston, whose bail is also $25,000, remains in the city jail Thursday night. The attorney for Shawn Blackston, Daniel R. Allnutt of Franklin, could not be reached for comment.

Reeve said investigators were in touch with the Butler County Prosecutor’s office about the case. Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said he was “fully aware” of the case but “it’s not something I can comment on at this time.”

Both Blackston’s are scheduled for preliminary hearings at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Middletown Municipal Court.
They didn’t return voice messages left Thursday on their cell phone.

On Thursday afternoon, no one answered the door at 1606 Philadelphia. The home is located off Central Avenue in a residential and business downtown neighborhood.

The glass window on the front door was painted, and several cans of cat food littered the front and side yards. There was a trailer in the side yard and no one answered that door either.
There is an empty lot to the south of the home and the two homes to the north are vacant.

One downtown businessman said he usually saw the children standing in the front yard every morning waiting for the school bus.
Marion Sherman, 84, lives around the corner at 17 Garfield St. When told about the allegations against his neighbors, he said he had heard of similar abuse claims on TV, but never “this close to home.”

He called the allegations “just awful,” and if true, the couple should be “locked up for a really long time.”

Joanna Blackston has lived in Middletown since August 2008, and before that lived in Circleville and Hamilton, and a few residences in New York.

Shawn Blackston has lived in Middletown since November 2008, and before that he lived at locations in Pickaway and Fairfield counties .

They have only committed traffic-related offenses, according to a background check. However, Joanna Blackston, whose maiden name is Green, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 1998 in Cincinnati. She also had three civil judgments in Butler County against her for a collective amount of $15,211.

Shawn Blackston also had three civil judgments filed against him — one in Pickaway County Municipal Court and two in Fairfield County Municipal Court — for a collective $3,150.

New restaurants, retail shops coming to Oxford

Published: Friday, October 28, 2016 @ 2:25 PM
Updated: Saturday, October 29, 2016 @ 4:37 PM

New restaurants and retail shops are coming to a development on the former Walmart site in Oxford.

Bishop Square — a 50,000-square-foot mixed use development at 419 Locust Street that currently includes 272 units of student housing — is adding Marco’s Pizza, Tim Hortons, a Sprint retail store and a bank.

“The final stage is important because we’ll be building the outlots that sit along Locust, which will serve as the front door to the whole project,” said Josh Rothstein, of Blue Ash-based OnSite Retail Group, which is handling marketing and leasing for the project. “The retailers and restaurants are excited to open their locations here because being across from Kroger, TJ Maxx and Dollar Tree provides tremendous exposure, great visibility and easy access to the shoppers already passing through this part of town.

“It’s also easily in walking distance to not only the concentration of Miami’s campus, but also the off-campus housing population,” Rothstein said.

Two other storefronts on the site are being are in the process of being leased, he said.

Existing Bishop Square tenants include Oxford Lane Library, Mercy Health - Orthopaedics and Sports Rehabilitation, Great Clips and Cloud 9 Vapor Lounge. A second-floor above some of those tenants includes office space.

Alan Kyger, Oxford’s economic development director, said the community is excited to see the Bishop Square project moving into its final phases.

“In 2005, when Walmart moved away from this site, the abandoned building that was left behind was a large eyesore for the Tollgate Business District, as well as for the whole community,” Kyger said. “Developer Robert Fiorita is to be commended in providing such a good-looking redevelopment project.

“The addition of these merchants will provide the citizens of Oxford additional shopping options. I expect each of these new businesses to be very successful in this new development.”

Marco’s Pizza has 700 stores in 35 states, doubling in size over the last five years and on track to 1,000 stores by the end of 2017, according to the company. Area locations include Middletown, Monroe, Hamilton and Liberty Twp. in Butler County.

Tim Hortons has more than 4,400 locations in the United States, Canada and the Middle East. Area locations include Monroe, Springboro and Maineville in Warren County.

Unpaid tickets from red light cameras total in the millions

Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 @ 9:45 AM
Updated: Friday, June 24, 2011 @ 9:45 AM

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

DAYTON, Ohio -- Authorities in the southwest Ohio city of Dayton are ready to crack down on drivers who don't pay red-light camera tickets.

City officials say more than 46,000 tickets worth $3.89 million are unpaid. That's nearly half of all such tickets issued in the last eight years.

The Dayton Daily News says city commissioners could vote next week on an ordinance allowing the city to tow cars that have two or more unpaid tickets. Drivers would have to pay the fines to get their cars back.

Hundreds of U.S. cities now use the cameras, which take pictures of vehicles going through intersections with red lights. Drivers are mailed a citation. In Dayton, the fine is $85, but no points are assessed against the driver's license.

Report outlines problems with red-light, speed cameras

Published: Thursday, October 27, 2011 @ 3:56 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 27, 2011 @ 3:56 PM

A new research report released today outlines problems with the growing trend among cities to outsource traffic enforcement to red-light and speed camera vendors. “Too many cities wrongly sign away power to ensure the safety of citizens on the roads when they privatize traffic law enforcement. Automated traffic ticketing tends to be governed by contracts that focus more on profits than safety.” said Jacqueline Thomas of Ohio PIRG, the Ohio Public Interest Research Group. “That shouldn’t happen,” Thomas added.

The report, titled Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead; The Risks of Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement and How to Protect the Public finds that approximately half of states have enabled the use of automated traffic law enforcement. Municipalities in these states contract with private companies to provide cameras and issue citations to traffic violators.

Citizens have often objected to privatized forms of traffic enforcement and many municipalities have found themselves in legal trouble when they attempt to change or update these contracts. Traffic engineering alternatives, such as lengthening yellow lights, are often the best way to reduce injuries from red-light running.

However, those solutions too often get ignored because contractors and sometimes municipalities are more focused on increasing revenue from tickets. “Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead raises critical warnings about revenue priorities overtaking safety concerns. This report is a must-read for city administrators in municipalities considering the addition of red light cameras, for authorities in communities that already have ticket cameras, and for motorists who are subjected to the privatized, for-profit automated traffic enforcement scheme known as red light cameras,” said Gary Biller, Executive Director of the National Motorists Association.

In Ohio, red-light cameras have been a contentious topic, with voters banning traffic cameras in Heath, Chillicothe and Cincinnati, paving the way for other communities to try to organize their own ballot initiatives. Columbus City Council has approved more red light cameras to be installed throughout the city, with the latest camera set to “go live” at 12:01 am October 27th, 2011, issuing citations to motorists caught running the red light at Olentangy River Road at Henderson Road.

State Representative Courtney Combs, R- Hamilton, introduced legislation in 2009 that would prohibit the use of red light cameras by Ohio State Highway Patrol, counties and townships. According to Representative Combs, “red light cameras are a money machine for political subdivisions to penalize their own citizens.” The report recommends stronger guidelines to ensure that automated traffic enforcement programs must focus on improving road safety, rather than ticket revenue.

Deals between local governments and traffic camera vendors should:

* Put public safety first in decisions regarding enforcement of traffic laws – this includes evaluating privatized law enforcement camera systems against alternative options without regard to potential revenues. * Ensure that contract language is free from potential conflicts of interest.

* Avoid direct or indirect incentives for vendors that are based on the volume of tickets or fines.

* Retain public control over traffic policy and engineering decisions, including cancelling contracts if the public is dissatisfied.

* Ensure that the process of contracting with vendors is completely open, with ample opportunity for public participation and each ticket listing where to find online data about automated ticketing for each intersection.

“We are lucky that Ohio hasn’t yet seen the controversy and lawsuits over red-light cameras found in states like California, Florida, Missouri, Texas, and Washington. Looking at the growth of this industry around the country and all across our state, we want to learn from problems elsewhere to prevent them in Ohio,” said Thomas.

For more information, read report here.

Four local teens qualify for Olympic trials

Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 @ 3:12 AM
Updated: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 @ 3:12 AM

InfoSource--Dayton Daily News

Patrick Mulcare (Springboro) and Cliff Goertemiller (Oakwood) set Ohio records and joined Dayton Raiders teammates Brett Mackenzie (Tipp City) and Colin Kanzari (Beavercreek) in qualifying for next year’s U.S. Olympic Trials during last week’s Junior National Championships at Stanford University.

Mulcare and Goertemiller both set their records in the 15-16 boys division. Mulcare was timed in 4 minutes, 26.30 seconds for the 400 intermediate medley. He placed eighth.  Goertemiller was timed in 15:44.69 to reset the state mark in the 1,500 free. He placed sixth.

Their efforts count as state records because they are registered as Ohio swimmers.

Also qualifying for the Trials at Omaha, Neb., were Mackenzie (4:30.24 in the 400 IM, 19th) and Kanzari (2:20.68 in the 200 breaststroke, 16th).

Other Raiders to participate in the National Championships were Jack Pohlmann (Beavercreek), Josh Quallen (Wilmington), Brock Turner (Oakwood), Alex Osterhage (Centerville) and Henrick Pohlmann (Beavercreek).